Who Will Read Your First Draft And How Do You Help Them #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

This month, I’m going to focus on what I’ve learnt from working with beta readers.

When I finished the first draft of my first novel, Descent, I was exhilarated and terrified. Exhilarated because I’d accomplished my dream of writing a novel, and terrified because I now had to share it with someone.

But who?

My lucky husband got to be my first beta reader. He understood how important my story was to me. He’d be kind yet helpful. So I took a deep breath and hit the print button.

I couldn’t be in the same room with him as he read. That was just too stressful.

Once he finished, he gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice that I still use today. It came in the form of a question.

“Do you know you start every scene in a doorway?”

I hadn’t noticed that. His question made me do a full rewrite of every scene, looking at the opening. This is when I discovered the term in medias res — start in the middle of the action.

Now, before I share my story with anyone, I check the beginning of each scene and choose the opening carefully. I try to open with a hook for each scene.

As the years have gone by, I’ve had many beta readers and received a lot of valuable advice, comments, and questions. I couldn’t write the way I do without these precious people.


What’s a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is a person who reads your manuscript before it’s published and provides you with feedback on your story. The feedback is usually on characters, plot, and settings. (Although you may get comments on copyediting and proofreading, too.)

A helpful beta reader gives you honest feedback, positive or negative, that you use to improve your story.

An ineffective beta reader says, “That’s a nice story. I liked it.” While that feels good, it doesn’t help you write a better story.


Tips for Getting Useful Feedback

Convincing friends to give you honest feedback is difficult. People who care about you usually don’t want to hurt your feelings and may be worried about beta reading.

Questions like “What if I don’t like the story?” or “How will I tell you if I find something I don’t like?” may swirl around their heads while they’re thinking of a way to say no.

Make sure your readers understand you won’t be hurt or offended by negative feedback. Feedback on what’s not working is the only way for you to tell a better story.

To make it easy for your beta readers to know what you want, provide a list of specific questions or instructions. This will help your reader know what you want from them.

I ask beta readers to do or answer the following:

  1. Mark anywhere you skim. This is an easy way to know that the writing is boring.
  2. Did you get confused on who a character was? Maybe you need more clues or dialogue tags.
  3. Did you lose track of who was speaking? I like to write with minimal dialogue tags, so this is critical.
  4. Note anytime you suspect a character of being the villain or know the ending. This helps to determine if you’ve done enough to too much foreshadowing.
  5. Mark each passage where you stopped reading. Get your beta readers to mark this each time, even it was to have dinner, go to work, etc. If all your beta readers put the book down at the same passage, there may be a problem with the story.
  6. Did you notice any story inconsistencies? To help your beta reader, give them an example of what you mean. I read a story where a dog was left at home in one scene, and in the next scene, the dog was still with the owner. The author had forgotten where the dog was.
  7. Avoid asking for copy editing or proofreading from beta readers. It’s ok if your readers notice errors and point them out, but what you want at this stage is input on your story, not on the grammar or typos.

Make Your Beta Reader Feel Special

Image Source: Pixabay

Once you’ve put a lot of time into finding helpful beta readers, you want to keep them for your next book.

The first time a beta reader gives you negative feedback, thank them. If you make the suggested change, let them know. A beta reader will put a lot of effort into reading your story and seeing that their comments resulted in changes can be very satisfying.

When you ask someone to beta read, make it easy for the author by asking what format he/she would like to receive the manuscript in. I offer a PDF file first, but some prefer a printed copy and others mobi. Some like to receive manuscripts in .docx format as it’s easy to convert and read on a Kindle. I try to send the manuscript in the format the beta reader prefers. I believe it’s a sign of respect for the person.

In the acknowledgment section of your published book, thank your beta readers. Mine all love to see their names in the book.

Make your beta reader feel really special and send them a signed copy of your book once it’s published.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for working with beta readers. We’d love to hear from you!


Perform a Story Edit Before Sharing with Beta Readers

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “Who Will Read Your First Draft And How Do You Help Them #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. It’s true, having your spouse as the first beta reader is frightening. It reminds me of that scene in the Chevy Chase movie “Funny Farm” where his wife reads his first manuscript and tells him to “burn it.” Good list of questions for beta readers. I’m going to bookmark this list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this list. Giving beta readers something to check for while they read, especially if the beta isn’t a writer is a great idea. I have a list that I look for when i’m reading for other people, but I didn’t have one to give out. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is such a useful blog as I am in the middle of editing and reading comments from my lovely Beta readers. They are so important. Thanks for the advice. I shall share.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What I like best about this approach is its compassion for the beta reader. Beta reading takes a lot of time and effort; anything a writer can do to make that job easier and to make the reader feel appreciated is a great idea. Thanks, Kristina!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Really terrific post. I kind of wonder if there was a big moment that happened in a doorway for you, hopefully something happy and not traumatizing. Your hubby’s awesome for pointing that out, and now you’ve become the expert in scene openings and endings, so he’s actually incredibly awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While I don’t think I’m anywhere near being ready for a beta reader myself, I have done beta reads a couple of times, hopefully with more to come. I always want to give the best & most useful feedback I can so your list will be very helpful, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In the beginning I had no one I could go to to read my first drafts. It wasn’t until I started blogging and built a relationship with many through my blog when I found writers who were kind enough to volunteer to beta read for me.

    The key is how you deliver and word the “negative feedback.” I greatly believe that being brutal about it is not warranted, but honesty is always necessary. You can be honest and yet considerate at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

Thank you for commenting! Your email address will be stored but not shared.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.